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Hy-Vee University Puts Education on Fast Track

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Hy-Vee has long been a model for superior associate training efforts, so you’d think it would be hard for this retailer to seriously raise its game.

Well, betting against Hy-Vee usually isn’t a good idea.

The company accelerated its efforts by revamping “Hy-Vee University” with two new programs that address both new and advanced employees in unique ways. And the new directions have been in place long enough to get a handle on how it’s going.

Sheila Laing, vice president, human resources, spread the word about Hy-Vee’s associate training efforts at FMI2012 during a panel discussion and in an SN video, and I reached out to her later for some more information.

Here are details about the two new initiatives, which already have a track record of about 18 months:

1. School of Retail Services. This is a talent development program to orient new associates to career opportunities across the entire store. Associates accepted into the program are taken off their regular jobs to spend three to six months working in different areas. “Maybe an associate has a secret desire to be a cake decorator,” she said. “Or maybe this person is going to school for accounting and wants to learn what an accounting coordinator does.”

The company wouldn’t have more than one or two associates doing this in each store, but “that becomes a lot when you look at 235 stores,” Laing pointed out.

Last year was the first year, and already some associates have completed the program and received new positions, she said.

2. Masters of Retail. This is an elite, “top-gun program” for a handful of advanced associates on the verge of managing their own stores. “It gives them an extra boost for their first store assignment,” she explained.

The coursework takes in a range of tools, including compliance, regulatory, inventory, pricing and cost management. It’s a “fast-track program that’s highly developed,” she said.

These updates to Hy-Vee University were spearheaded by Denise Broderick, assistant vice president, education and training. The most important aspect is how this helps fill the talent pipeline on an ongoing basis. This makes it easier for Hy-Vee to continue its unit and market expansion while relying on in-house talent development. That’s the real goal here, and it’s why Hy-Vee’s latest efforts are worth a careful look.

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David Orgel

David Orgel is executive director, content & user engagement, of Supermarket News (SN) and its website, SupermarketNews.com. Orgel delivers his opinions on industry trends through a bi-weekly...

Jon Springer

Jon Springer has been writing about food, food retailers and food retailing for more than 10 years, and is in his second tour of duty with Supermarket News. His prior experience includes covering the...
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